Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works



          BEGUILED into forgetfulness of care
          Due to the day's unfinished task; of pen
          Or book regardless, and of that fair scene
          In Nature's prodigality displayed
          Before my window, oftentimes and long
          I gaze upon a Portrait whose mild gleam
          Of beauty never ceases to enrich
          The common light; whose stillness charms the air,
          Or seems to charm it, into like repose;
          Whose silence, for the pleasure of the ear,                 10
          Surpasses sweetest music. There she sits
          With emblematic purity attired
          In a white vest, white as her marble neck
          Is, and the pillar of the throat would be
          But for the shadow by the drooping chin
          Cast into that recess--the tender shade,
          The shade and light, both there and everywhere,
          And through the very atmosphere she breathes,
          Broad, clear, and toned harmoniously, with skill
          That might from nature have been learnt in the hour         20
          When the lone shepherd sees the morning spread
          Upon the mountains. Look at her, whoe'er
          Thou be that, kindling with a poet's soul,
          Hast loved the painter's true Promethean craft
          Intensely--from Imagination take
          The treasure,--what mine eyes behold, see thou,
          Even though the Atlantic ocean roll between.
            A silver line, that runs from brow to crown
          And in the middle parts the braided hair,
          Just serves to show how delicate a soil                     30
          The golden harvest grows in; and those eyes,
          Soft and capacious as a cloudless sky
          Whose azure depth their colour emulates,
          Must needs be conversant with upward looks,
          Prayer's voiceless service; but now, seeking nought
          And shunning nought, their own peculiar life
          Of motion they renounce, and with the head
          Partake its inclination towards earth
          In humble grace, and quiet pensiveness
          Caught at the point where it stops short of sadness.        40
            Offspring of soul-bewitching Art, make me
          Thy confidant! say, whence derived that air
          Of calm abstraction? Can the ruling thought
          Be with some lover far away, or one
          Crossed by misfortune, or of doubted faith?
          Inapt conjecture! Childhood here, a moon
          Crescent in simple loveliness serene,
          Has but approached the gates of womanhood,
          Not entered them; her heart is yet unpierced
          By the blind Archer-god; her fancy free:                    50
          The fount of feeling if unsought elsewhere,
          Will not be found.
                              Her right hand, as it lies
          Across the slender wrist of the left arm
          Upon her lap reposing, holds--but mark
          How slackly, for the absent mind permits
          No firmer grasp--a little wild-flower, joined
          As in a posy, with a few pale ears
          Of yellowing corn, the same that overtopped
          And in their common birthplace sheltered it
          'Till they were plucked together; a blue flower             60
          Called by the thrifty husbandman a weed;
          But Ceres, in her garland, might have worn
          That ornament, unblamed. The floweret, held
          In scarcely conscious fingers, was, she knows,
          (Her Father told her so) in youth's gay dawn
          Her Mother's favourite; and the orphan Girl,
          In her own dawn--a dawn less gay and bright,
          Loves it, while there in solitary peace
          She sits, for that departed Mother's sake.
          --Not from a source less sacred is derived                  70
          (Surely I do not err) that pensive air
          Of calm abstraction through the face diffused
          And the whole person.
                                 Words have something told
          More than the pencil can, and verily
          More than is needed, but the precious Art
          Forgives their interference--Art divine,
          That both creates and fixes, in despite
          Of Death and Time, the marvels it hath wrought.
            Strange contrasts have we in this world of ours!
          That posture, and the look of filial love                   80
          Thinking of past and gone, with what is left
          Dearly united, might be swept away
          From this fair Portrait's fleshly Archetype,
          Even by an innocent fancy's slightest freak
          Banished, nor ever, haply, be restored
          To their lost place, or meet in harmony
          So exquisite; but 'here' do they abide,
          Enshrined for ages. Is not then the Art
          Godlike, a humble branch of the divine,
          In visible quest of immortality,                            90
          Stretched forth with trembling hope?--In every realm,
          From high Gibraltar to Siberian plains,
          Thousands, in each variety of tongue
          That Europe knows, would echo this appeal;
          One above all, a Monk who waits on God
          In the magnific Convent built of yore
          To sanctify the Escurial palace. He--
          Guiding, from cell to cell and room to room,
          A British Painter (eminent for truth
          In character, and depth of feeling, shown                  100
          By labours that have touched the hearts of kings,
          And are endeared to simple cottagers)--
          Came, in that service, to a glorious work,
          Our Lord's Last Supper, beautiful as when first
          The appropriate Picture, fresh from Titian's hand,
          Graced the Refectory: and there, while both
          Stood with eyes fixed upon that masterpiece,
          The hoary Father in the Stranger's ear
          Breathed out these words:--"Here daily do we sit,
          Thanks given to God for daily bread, and here              110
          Pondering the mischiefs of these restless times,
          And thinking of my Brethren, dead, dispersed,
          Or changed and changing, I not seldom gaze
          Upon this solemn Company unmoved
          By shock of circumstance, or lapse of years,
          Until I cannot but believe that they--
          They are in truth the Substance, we the Shadows."
            So spake the mild Jeronymite, his griefs
          Melting away within him like a dream
          Ere he had ceased to gaze, perhaps to speak:               120
          And I, grown old, but in a happier land,
          Domestic Portrait! have to verse consigned
          In thy calm presence those heart-moving words:
          Words that can soothe, more than they agitate;
          Whose spirit, like the angel that went down
          Into Bethesda's pool, with healing virtue
          Informs the fountain in the human breast
          Which by the visitation was disturbed.
          --But why this stealing tear? Companion mute,
          On thee I look, not sorrowing; fare thee well,             130
          My Song's Inspirer, once again farewell!



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